April 2009

Take your bloody bog roll with you next time

So there I was down at the allotment, just minding my own business, when this mouse scampered into the bed I was weeding. Next thing I know he dropped its mousey trousers and had a crap in the bed! Right in front of me!

Of course, I knew you wouldn’t believe me so I grabbed my camera to snap it. But I was too slow. He whipped out the rodent loo roll he’d brought along, wiped his backside and shot off before I could focus.

By the time the camera was all set up all that was left to photo was the loo roll he left behind, and that’s what you can see in the pic above.

No? Don’t believe me? I can see why you might not.

How’s about this one then? Over the next few months that strip of tape in the photo is going to grow into a big row of yummy leeks! No, that’s almost as silly.

Except it’s true; in the garden centre the other day browsing seeds I saw some packets of seed tapes. I’ve never used them before, but in the interests of investigative horticulture (and a desire to reduce gardening to the minimum amount of effort possible) I thought I’d give them a whirl.

Apparently all I need to do is just bury the tape in an inch or so of soil and then the seeds impregnated therein will germinate and grow into leeks.

It sounds a little too good to be true, given all the faff I read about leek seedlings and having to bury them deep in the soil to encourage as much of the veg to turn white as possible. Still, the idea of growing a vegetable just by putting some paper in the soil and wetting it appeals to several of my baser instincts, so here we are.

Still, it’s not just me: it does look like bog roll, doesn’t it?

On the ipod while clearing up after the mouse: East 17 / Stay Another Day. I can’t explain it. I think Mrs Drooling must have been messing with the Ipod again…



Look! Can you see what I can see! It’s the first signs of life on my allotment!

As the badly written label in the background will tell you, these are some of my shallots, but more importantly than that they are the first signs that my allotment is going to produce good things to eat.

These little babies are a couple of inches high, as are most of the others in their row. Elsewhere on the plot there are onions, red and white, doing much the same thing, and some tiny little carrot seedlings.

These latter have only germinated in half the row, which is puzzling. Perhaps a duff bunch of seeds, or – I fear – more likely, something wandered down the row munching its way through my seedlings before getting full about half way down and sloping off into the ether.

That is a worry for another day. For the time being, the main thing is that all my exaggerated fears about the shady nature of the plot, the overhanging trees, blah, blah, blah, were just a bit of beginner’s panic. These seedlings are at pretty much exactly the same stage as the onions at the bottom of the garden, which means that of course I can grow loads of stuff on the allotment.

So one more time, look at the seedlings!

Look at them!

On the ipod while marvelling at the wonders of nature: Blink 182 / I Miss You. I’d like to dedicate this song to the gaps in the row of carrot seedlings where little tufts of green should be…

The epitome of Spring

Is there any more evocative sign of spring than the daffofil? Answers on a postcard please. Perhaps the tulip, the other big bulb to appear at this time of year? They’ve got the variety for sure, and far more different colours than daffs,  but tulips don’t have the entrancing scent that comes with Wales’ finest flower.

And the other contenders don’t come close – snowdrops are too tiddly small and dull, crocuses are not much more than jumped up buttercups and bluebells are nice, but not a lot more.

The daffodil comes in a myraid shades, from the classic egg-yolk yellow to subtler tones of cream, like Narcissus Poeticus at the bottom of the garden (and in the pic above), is just the right height for cutting and dropping in a vase, and lasts for ages.

And then there’s the intoxicating scent; heavy, floral (well, dur!) and fresh, a welcome blast of the garden in a house that has been starved of such things for far too long.

The scent of daffodils drifting through the house makes the heart sing. And the best thing about it? It means that summer is just around the corner…

The perfect plant

I have found the perfect plant to grow on my allotment!

While wandering round the garden centre the other day I broke – as usual – my golden rule of not impulse-buying plants and picked up these two lovely specimens for a fiver.

Naturally, eagle-eyed horticulturalists that you are, you will know what they will grow into, but for the benefit of casual passers-by, I will explain that you are looking at a couple of horseradish plants.

“Ah Drooling!” I hear you sigh, satisfied. “I know exactly why they are tailor-made for your plot”. You’re right, of course. But again, for the less well informed reader, I shall explain their all-round super-suitability:

1. They aren’t exactly beautiful. The back garden is a popular place in the summer, and the plants that live there have got to look as tasty as they….um…taste. Neither of those babies in the picture  is going to be covered in delightful flowers or aesthetically pleasing foliage. So being tucked away on the allotment is ideal for such modest plants.

2. They’re pretty big. Each of these tiddlers is going to grow into a bushy specimen about 1m by 1m. Again, in the back garden that’s about 500 bags of salad, two crops of radishes and all the swiss chard I can eat (which, I grant you, ain’t much). So again, the wide open spaces of the allotment beckon.

3. No-one else except me likes them. And even I won’t be using them much. I don’t really know what you use horseradish for apart from, well horseradish sauce, and with the best will in the world I don’t eat industrial quantities of that. But again, that’s the joy of the allotment: Even though they take up loads of room and I will only eat a small part of just a few of the roots, the allotment gives me the room to indulge such  foibles

I can now grow big ugly plants like these on the offchance that in about six months’ time I might decide that, hey, I’m too good for that jar of processed horseradish sauce, I’m only going to eat it fresh from now on.


A science experiment

Enough of the whingeing about the perma-shade that seems to encloak my beautiful plot!Goodbye to the speculation about how low in the sky the sun is at this time of year! No more guessing about whether anything will grow!

I have decided to see how fertile my allotment is by using….science! I shall conduct a carefully structured experiment to see just how likely it is that my allotment will produce vast quantities of lovely veg this year.

And the tool I shall use? The botanical key with which to unlock the secrets of my plot? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…..the humble radish. Ta dah!

So here’s the plan: radishes grow super-fast, from seed to crunchy mouthful in around a month. Ideal for my purposes.  I will therefore plant radishes simultaneously in carefully selected spots across my gardening empire, sit back and observe the results. In around a month I will have a  definitive answer as to how fast things grow in different parts of the allotment. Brilliant, n’est-ce-pas?

Now I know that the two raised beds at the bottom of the garden are a sun-kissed paradise, so the radishes I plant there will turn into plump little salad accessories in no time. This, I believe, is known to science boffins as “the control”.

But the killer question is how fast the other seeds will grow. I will cast a few in each of the beds in the allotment and watch what happens.

My gut feel is that the raspberry and blackberry beds will be good for nothing – if I’m lucky my children might get to eat those radishes before they retire – but I’m vaguely hopeful that most of the other beds will come up with the good, albeit I suspect they might be a few weeks behind the suntrap in the garden.

We shall see.